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Pacific Northwest storm: Vancouver cut off as severe floods hit US-Canada border region

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By Euronews  with AFP, AP
A farm is surrounded by floodwaters in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021.
A farm is surrounded by floodwaters in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Tuesday, Nov. 16, 2021.   -   Copyright  Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP

Torrential rain, landslides and floods that have hit British Columbia in western Canada in recent days have left at least one dead and thousands evacuated, local officials said on Tuesday.

The floods that have hit the Pacific northwest have been described as the worst in decades, with some areas receiving almost all their usual monthly rainfall in 24 hours.

It's feared that several more people may have died after days of flooding that left thousands of people without power and hundreds of motorists stranded in their vehicles.

The city of Vancouver is said to have been cut off after major routes to Canada's largest port were closed.

The body of a woman was found in a landslide near Lillooet, 250 kilometres north of Vancouver on Monday morning, Canadian federal police said in a statement. They added that the total number of people and vehicles missing was not confirmed.

Many districts were evacuated. A few dozen kilometres from Vancouver, more than 1,000 people in Abbotsford were relocated.

"It breaks my heart to see what is happening to our city," said Henry Braun, the mayor of the city of about 150,000 people located on the Canada-US border.

The city council explained that the floods were mainly due to the flooding of the Nooksack River in the United States.

The 7,000 residents of the town of Merritt, 300 kilometres northeast of Vancouver, were also moved from their homes on Monday.

At least 9,000 people were still without power, authorities said on Tuesday.

“I’m extremely concerned about the situation in British Columbia right now and what hundreds of families are going through, thousands are people are affected across the province by these extreme weather events,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said.

The floods come a few months after forest fires ravaged the province amid a summer heatwave.

Mike Farnsworth, provincial Minister of Public Safety, said he had no doubt that recent events are linked to climate change, describing them as "unprecedented in nature".

Over the border to the south in the United States, Washington state began drying out Tuesday after a storm that dumped rain for days. Waters in some areas continued rising, while more people were urged to evacuate and crews worked to restore power and reopen roads.

The rains were caused by an atmospheric river — a huge plume of moisture extending over the Pacific and into Washington and Oregon.

It was the second major widespread flood event in the northwest part of Washington state in less than two years, and climate change is fueling more powerful and frequent severe weather, officials were quoted as saying.